The gas leaf blower (GLB) resolution passed last week by the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) is the first of its kind in the nation. The resolution calls on 1) the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and manufacturers of GLBs to develop guidelines to reduce toxic emissions and noise; 2) state and government agencies to promote the use of nonpolluting alternatives; and, 3) the American Medical Association to consider having its house of delegates do the same. Huntington CALM founder and QC community council member, Bonnie Sager, OD contacted the president of Suffolk County Medical Society, Charles Rothberg, MD to bring the issue to the attention of MSSNY. Allen Dozer, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist and principal investigator for the American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Center at New York Medical College gave testimony at the meeting. Dr. Dozor is a leader in the fight against childhood asthma and lung problems and interested in role of environmental agents in those conditions. He helped create and direct the Children’s Environmental Health Center of the Hudson Valley. We are grateful for their efforts and the efforts of others, including QC advisor and pediatrician, Lucy Weinstein, MD, who heads the Environmental Health Committee of the American Association of Pediatrics, Chapter 2.
Recognition of GLBs and other gas-powered lawn and garden equipment as a local source of toxic pollution and noise is long overdue. In the US, GLBs and other gas-powered equipment generate tons of toxic pollution, including ground level ozone and fine particulate matter. GLBs are particularly egregious as they generate large amounts of fine particulate exhaust and surface-sourced materials that can range from herbicides and pesticides to fertilizers to animal fecal material to trace heavy metals. The pollutants produced by GLBs are widely acknowledged to cause or contribute to conditions including cancer, heart disease, stroke, asthma, and premature death. The noise levels are literally deafening and also cause hypertension, learning problems, and other stress-related health conditions. Children, workers, and seniors are particularly vulnerable.
The dramatic proliferation of fossil fuel powered equipment around our homes, schools, and other public spaces is distressing many communities and frankly must be considered not just an environmental issue, but a public health issue. Thus far, the issue has not gained sufficient attention by major medical groups. It is time to change that. Groups including the American Lung Association and American Heart Association need to make this issue a priority. With the body of scientific knowledge they bring to the table, MSSNY and other state and national medical societies have a critical role to play in educating government officials and the public about the connections between environmental hazards and disease, and the actions we can take to reduce risks in our backyards and communities.